Avoiding anesthesia complications for kids

Using general anesthesia in a child has its risks, but there are steps you and your physician can take to make this part of a child’s medical procedure safer.

Most side effects of anesthesia are minor and include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, muscle soreness and sore throat. Rare but more serious complications include adverse reactions that affect breathing, allergic reactions and irregular heart rhythms. Recent studies raise concern about repeated or prolonged use of anesthetic and sedative agents below age 2 having adverse impacts on brain development. A pediatric anesthesiologist has additional pediatric training and knows what anesthetics to avoid in order to bypass adverse effects from anesthesia in children.

The following three steps can make general anesthesia in a child safer and can provide some peace of mind at a time when parents need it most.

Provide your child’s complete medical history to the anesthesiologist

This includes: allergies; history of illnesses or injuries; current and past prescriptions; over-the-counter medicines; supplements; family or personal history of reaction to anesthesia; and, for older children, a history of smoking, drinking or illicit drug use.

Being as detailed as possible is important. Even seemingly insignificant details could affect how your child responds to anesthesia.

Follow surgery preparation instructions

Most procedures require that patients don’t eat or drink anything for several hours before the surgery. Most pediatric patients will be allowed to have clear liquids up to two hours before scheduled hospital arrival.

If there’s food in the stomach, the anesthesia may cause children to vomit during surgery. This can cause serious breathing difficulties and even fatalities in some cases.

Pediatric anesthesiologists at Norton Children’s Hospital, Norton Women’s & Children’s

Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center are dedicated to the care of children. Their specialized training and compassion for children make them better prepared to treat children safely. For more information:

Call (502) 629-6000.

Check with the surgery team and anesthesiologist prior to the procedure see which medicines should be continued and which, if any, medicines should be stopped.

Use a pediatric anesthesiologist

Additional training and experience prepare a pediatric anesthesiologist to meet the unique needs of young patients.

Pediatric anesthesiologists are specialists in making children as comfortable and cooperative as possible to minimize the risk of complications. In addition, they are concerned about your child’s safety.  They know which anesthetic medications work best in children and are safest to the developing brain of a child.

The additional familiarity resulting from working with children on a daily basis is another advantage of turning to a pediatric anesthesiologist.

“I treated three under-2-month-old [patients] yesterday. There are people out there that do one a year. There’s a big difference in comfort level and expertise,” said Steven M. Auden, M.D., chief of anesthesiology for Norton Children’s Hospital and pediatric anesthesiologist with Pediatric Anesthesia Associates.


Norton Children's Hospital

Location Details

Norton Children's Medical Center

Location Details

Norton Women's and Children's Hospital

Location Details

Search our entire site.